Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Oct 21
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by Dennise Goldberg

Children can exhibit off task behavior in the classroom for a variety of reasons. Maybe the student raises their hand every 2 minutes to ask the teacher a question, or they might lose focus during a math lesson when the task becomes too difficult. Whatever the reason is, a Behavior Support Plan is necessary to teach the student how to remain on task in the classroom so that they are not missing out on valuable learning time. I’m sure some of you out there are confused because you’ve only seen Behavior Support Plans for students who have disruptive behavior in class. Well I’m here to tell you that Behavior Support Plans also help students with off task behavior as well.

If your child is exhibiting off task behavior in class, it’s a good idea to request a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) to thoroughly research what triggers the child’s off task behavior. Once you know what and when the off task behavior occurs, it’s easier for you and your child’s school to come up with a Behavior Support Plan. Remember, you have to understand your child’s needs before you can develop interventions and goals. The interventions should be designed to help your child overtime learn how to remain on task during critical academic instruction. The interventions will most likely be implemented by your child’s Teacher, Resource Teacher, Aide or all the above. As we all know, as our children move up to the next grade, academics become harder and harder. As a result, if a child is off task during those important instructional hours, there is no learning going on and they might fall further and further behind academically.

Below is a small excerpt from a Functional Behavior Assessment and the observations related to that behavior. The name of the child has been changed.


For this assessment, the behavior that was focused on included:

Off Task Behavior – whenever Mary is not on task. She may be asking questions, looking around the room, reading her book, talking, zoning out, etc.


9/10: Mary was observed in her classroom during whole group instruction for approximately 30 minutes. She was sitting near the center of the room with 4 children. The class was having a discussion. Mary raised her hand frequently to add to the discussion and gave answers that were original. She tended to fidget on her seat a lot but her behavior did not appear to disrupt her peers. After the discussion, the students were asked to write down some statements about themselves. Mary raised her hand for clarification. She then settled down to work. Mary raised her hand again approximately 2 minutes later to ask if what she had written down was sufficient. She was told that it was. Mary then spoke about her next idea before writing it down. She continued to raise her hand to engage the teacher throughout the lesson approximately once every 2 to 5 minutes. Mary stared off into space and/or observed her peers at least once during the 2 to 5 minute segments.

9/15: Mary’s class was working on Language Arts. Mary was sitting near the back of the room. The class was asked to work independently. Mary immediately raised her hand to ask a question. The Teacher came over to her and guided her through writing her name and number. Mary then asked whether her answer was correct. After the Teacher walked away, Mary turned to the observer and said, “Excuse me, did I spell this right?” The observer confirmed that she had spelled the word correctly. Mary then fidgeted in her chair, looked around the room and eventually wrote something down. For the duration of the 30 minute observation, Mary continued to raise her hand or call out for help approximately once every 3 to 5 minutes. She also engaged in off task behavior such as looking around the room and staring off into space. Compared to most of her peers, Mary did not appear to be as productive or on task.

9/25: Mary was observed during resource for approximately 30 minutes. She entered the room happily and greeted the Resource Teacher warmly. She followed instructions to get out certain working materials and to begin with her assignment. It involved writing and Mary leaned forward with her chin in her hand. After being guided to write, Mary was able to work for approximately 2 minutes before asking a question. Eventually, she was able to finish the assignment and move onto her spelling list. However, she enlisted one on one support from the Resource Teacher during most of the exercise. Mary started working on a crossword puzzle and again asked for guidance. She got stuck on a word, and asked what it meant. The Resource Teacher asked her what she thought it meant, and Mary answered. She went back to her chair for approximately one minute and then got up to ask the assistant a question. She went back to her seat to work for approximately one minute then got up. Mary was directed to sit back down and she did. Mary looked at her work and then got up again to ask the observer a question. At this point, the Resource Teacher gave a stern directive for Mary to stop wandering around asking for help. Mary sat down very compliantly and said very sweetly,” It’s nice to see you.” Mary completed another word on the crossword puzzle and then asked for help. This pattern of asking for help, completing one problem and asking for help again was consistent.

Summary and Impressions of Observations:

Mary appears to be a very verbal girl who craves verbal engagement. Throughout most of the observational time, Mary was off task seeking adult attention. She does this by raising her hand and asking her teachers for help. However, she does it to an exorbitant degree and does not work independently. At times she seemed to ask for help just so that she could engage with her teacher. Her questions did not always appear necessary. She seems to feel more comfortable interacting with adults, and very little peer interaction was observed. She did not engage in prolonged conversations with her peers, and did not seem connected to them to a typical degree.

The off-task behavior exhibited above has obviously affected this child’s learning. In order to work on the behavior, a Behavior Support Plan (BSP) was put in place which included proper supports and services. The behavior goal that was added to the BSP stated; Mary will work independently without enlisting the attention of an adult during 75% of the independent work time as measured by Teacher charted records.

As you can see by this example, off task behavior can impede a child’s ability to access the curriculum, therefore, missing critical learning time. It’s important to address this problem sooner rather than later so that the child will learn to work independently as they progress in their academic education.


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